Day 14 at the Rugby World Cup: All change as Ireland seek return to winning ways
Fly-half Jonny Sexton takes over the captaincy for the first time in Kobe.
Ireland play Russia on Thursday desperate to reignite their World Cup campaign.
Joe Schmidt’s side must get back to winning ways after their shock 19-12 defeat to tournament hosts Japan last weekend.
Russia, ranked 20th in the world, should not present a formidable obstacle following their opening Pool A defeats to Japan (30-10) and Samoa (34-9).
Georgia and Fiji are also in Pool D action on Thursday, with the Pacific Islanders out to bounce back from their shock defeat to Uruguay.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made 11 changes for the Kobe clash with Russia.
Schmidt said his hand has been forced with three games in 11 days against Scotland, Japan and Russia.
“We do need to make sure everyone is ready and involved as much as possible, to get everyone up to speed,” Schmidt said.
“It’s pretty tough with a six-day and then a five-day turnaround – there’s always going to be a bit of attrition.
“We’re looking to freshen it up and give guys an opportunity. It’s great, because we’ve got some guys who would have been very, very keen to be involved who will get an opportunity on Thursday.”
Skipper Sexton steps up
Jonny Sexton will realise a boyhood dream when he captains Ireland for the first time, with Schmidt having decided to rest hooker Rory Best.
Sexton has got the nod ahead of back-rower Peter O’Mahony, who has previously led the team.
“It’s always been a toss of a coin with those two because they’re so influential on the team and such good professionals,” said Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell.
“Johnny has been great within camp the whole pre-season. He’s right on song and he’s determined to put his feelings across to the team.
“He cares so much. I think you’ve seen with his captaincy with Leinster that he’s learnt from those situations (interaction with referees) and it helps his game.”
‘Devastated’ Fiji seek Georgia redemption
Fiji’s defeat to Uruguay last time out was among the biggest shocks in World Cup history.
The South American minnows beat the two-time quarter-finalists 30-27 after Fiji had produced a battling performance in their opening loss to Australia.
“After the loss in the last match, we were devastated,” said Fiji captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu, who knows a third-placed finish in the pool would guarantee automatic qualification for the 2023 competition.
“The boys have to leave that behind and we can’t do anything about it anymore.
“We are looking ahead and qualifying for the next World Cup is in there; that is the focus for us in these two games.”
England shrug off ‘boring’ tag
Argentina’s Agustin Creevy wasted little time in stirring the pot ahead of the Pool C collision with England on Saturday.
The Pumas talisman and former captain declared England play “boring” rugby under Eddie Jones and should be ready for a “war”.
But England hooker Jamie George said: “I don’t think we play boring rugby.
“I’m not overly surprised that he’s tried to say that, but he’s entitled to his opinion and hopefully we’ll prove him wrong on Saturday.
“In my opinion I don’t think it’s very justified. I’m sure he’s just trying to rattle us a bit. He’s more than welcome to try.”
Stat of the day
New Zealand fly-half Richie Mo’unga starred as the All Blacks romped to a 63-0 victory over Canada on Wednesday – the biggest win in the tournament.
Mo’unga provided the ammunition in the All Blacks’ nine-try rout and had a 100 per cent conversion success.
The win was Steve Hansen’s 90th as New Zealand coach and maintained the All Blacks’ record of never having lost a World Cup pool game.
The three-time champions’ record in that particular department now stands at 30 wins from 30 games.
- Pool D – Georgia v Fiji (ITV 4, 0615 BST)
- Pool A – Ireland v Russia (ITV, 1115 BST)